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Will On-Demand Television Render the Traditional TV Seasons Obsolete?

16/07/2015 18:07 BST | Updated 16/07/2016 10:59 BST

Summer has long been seen as the 'off-season' for TV. Dominated by sporting events, re-runs or 'filler' television, the summer schedule has rarely been one to look forward to. However, this looks like an age-old trend that is already history.

Thanks to changing audience habits, on-demand television and time-shifted viewing, television has now become a 24/7 platform. Whilst many may still look forward to their 9pm drama or their daily soap fix, they no longer need to sacrifice long evenings in the sun to do so; a prospect which has long proved to be summer television's toughest competition.

Binge watching too is no longer frowned upon, but celebrated. Shows like Breaking Bad, Broadchurch and The Fall have all proven just how much audiences value their favourite 'show of the moment'. An important reason for this is the changing role that television plays today. As our research has recently shown, TV is no longer a medium that is enjoyed alone or in the confines of the family home. It is instead a social enabler, as audiences around the globe increasingly watch episode upon episode of a television show so that they can join in the social conversation surrounding it, both on and offline.

All of this is fundamentally changing the way summer television is treated by both audiences and broadcasters. US giants True Detective and Orange is the New Black both dropped their new seasons in the peak of summer. Channel 4 has just launched Humans, a sci-fi drama that has become the channel's biggest drama hit in decades. Clearly, the broadcaster is no longer worried that viewing figures might drop as audiences seek to exploit the summer weather. With on-demand available, every show now has the opportunity to find a new following every day.

And it's not just summer programming that is changing the balance between seasons and programmes. There is now also an increasing trend for the big autumn TV hits to foster interest early by seeding teasers and summer previews long before they are due to air in their primetime slot. The X Factor, for example, seeds online sneak peeks of upcoming auditions months before the show goes to air.

As a result, the modern scheduler can no longer rely on reruns or repeats of film classics. Broadcasters must now look towards new shows to exploit the fact that they no longer need to wait until September to find the next big hit.

Of course, live television still retains its central importance to UK television viewing, and linear viewing is not going to disappear any time soon. However, changing viewing habits and new ways to watch television mean that the summer months no longer provide audiences with a television 'breather'. Instead, 2015 looks set to be the best year ever for summer TV.

From the new season of True Detective to Channel 4 comedy Not Safe for Work, and from US import Agent Carter to Olivia Colman's latest efforts in Run, one thing is for sure. Summer is no longer the 'off-season' for UK television. Viewers can now expect quality television all year long.